Playing in the Air

Santa hat on E-ProI’ve been giving some more thought to the whole idea of a public performance on theremin, should I ever be in the position to do so. As I mentioned previously, I don’t think a guest spot with the band will work (unless they go somewhere with a big enough stage), which leaves me with 3 options. I could just play solo, with no accompaniment, I could have a pre-recorded accompaniment (or maybe guitar player), or I could use delay loops. I quite like the idea of the last option, having seen how well it can work in practice. I’d probably set up a backing loop on acoustic guitar, then play a theremin bassline over the top, followed by the melody.

So, that’s all very well, but what could I play?

Tempting though a freeform improvisation would be, I don’t know that it would go down very well with an audience who’ve paid to see a covers band, so that got me thinking. Our next public gig is December, and there are some festive tunes which should sound pretty good on the theremin. I tried some out today – a mixture of popular Christmas tunes like White Christmas, Rudolph, etc. along with some traditional carols – Silent Night is particularly effective on theremin.

Here’s the thing. I tried ‘Walking in the Air’ – the theme from ‘The Snowman’ – which is a song that really gets my hackles up. I don’t know why, but it always seems to conjure up in my mind the sugary, sickly, commercial worst of what the Christmas season has become. To paraphrase Roy Harper “I’ve not read the book (or seen the film), so I cannot recite”, but it just grates on me for reasons I cannot explain. It may be a lovely, touching story about one boy’s love for a talking ice-pop, but that music has put me off it for life. HOWEVER… What a perfect piece of music for theremin. It’s in the right register, it’s fairly ethereal, it’s fun to play, and it’s not Aled bloody Jones.

The band do a great version of Squiggle’s (or whatever he’s calling himself nowadays) ‘Kiss’. I have never liked Prince (as was), or any of his musical output – he always seemed like he was trying to be the best bits of Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and Johnny Guitar Watson and ending up being the worst excesses of all of them. Maybe I’m being unfair, but he had his chance with me and blew it. Maybe I’d like him more if he wasn’t so hyped – I do tend to automatically put up barriers to hype, hence my similar dislike of REM, INXS, Simply Red; the list goes on. The point is that despite not liking the song ‘Kiss’ (including the self-mocking, good-humored Tom Jones version), the first time the band tried it out they completely rocked its socks off. In fact it is one of my favourite songs they do. Somehow or other it just fits, and similarly, somehow or other that awful Snowman tune just comes to life on the theremin.

Or maybe it’s just me?